Monday, April 30, 2007

Pokot online, the future?

(Written Monday April 30, 16:26 Kenya time – regarding Sunday April 29, afternoon)

I spent several hours outlining a possible future Pokot website with one of the students and our resident doctor. It was quite a fun experience, as I learned a lot of little snippets of their culture as we wrote the map. I've been asked not to post the entire outline of the site we mapped out, so this is just a few little cultural tidbits I noted during the discussion. These are high-level notes but really quite interesting, and an appetite whetter for what will come!


Language and dialects. Pokot is a unique language apart from Swahili, but clans have their own variations. In Kenya, the official language is English, the national language is Swahili, and then tribes have their own language. Most educated Pokot speak all three languages. Remote tribes generally speak their own language only.

Body modification/decoration: scarring, piercing, teeth removal (ouch… yes many of the photos you see where they are missing teeth is actually ritualistic. And no, there's no anesthetic!

Justice system: Clan based; trial by jury of neutral clan. "Judge" is a council of elders from neutral clan. Punishment is usually based on the removal of cattle. A big enough offense (i.e. murder), and they take all the cattle from the entire clan. So this doesn't happen to often. In the case of adultery, the adulterer is beaten and their personal cattle are taken.

Diet: Animal products; meat, milk. Only a very small area in the entire Pokot region supports any agriculture. They barter for beans, maize, cornmeal. Blood letting from animals like cattle as a food source is common.

Cultural stories and proverbs. There is a children's book called "Chebet and The Lost Goat" (author: Ben Alex) which is actually written about Tim's sister (the Pokot doctor) [Link to]. Unfortunately it would appear that none of the proceeds from this book ever made it back to Pokot. Tsk tsk.


Pokot region is in Kenya and Uganda. Local volcanoes are Pakkaa and Silale. There are caves, volcanic vents, craters of course, and mineral springs in the area.

Tiati mountain - highest on Pokot. Bamboo forests, different vegetation, never dry. Some, but few Pokot live there. Generally inaccessible.

West Pokot has more vegetation and agriculture; still in Kenya but towards Uganda border.

Lake Baringo - the northern shore in Pokot

Native animals: Baboons and monkeys, some zebra, buffalo, 'dik dik' (small gazelle-like animal), wolves

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